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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #111, 98-10-01

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Thursday, October 1, 1998


1		Meg Donovan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
		  Legislative Affairs, died today.

IRAN 1-2 Two Baha'i internees are in imminent danger of execution. 2 Foreign Minister's speech: US is prepared to be patient.

FRY/KOSOVO 2-3 FRY has a broad pattern of non-cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal. 3 Serb claims that offensives have stopped are blatantly untrue. 3 UN Security Council resolution must be complied with; Milosevic not listening. 3 Prospect of NATO military action is now closer; world community losing patience. 3-4,5,6 State Department to issue Travel Warning for Serbia & Montenegro today. 4 US urging UN Secretary General to accelerate compliance report to Security Council. 4,6,14 NATO allies coming to understand urgency, need for fast-track decision-making. 7-8 US, NATO goal is irreversible compliance by Milosevic with UN resolution. 8 Use of force would be designed to compel compliance with NATO, UNSC demands.

TURKEY 9 Questions taken about Turkish troop buildup on border with Syria.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 10 US deals with Palestinian Authority in many ways. 11 Goal of Secretary's trip is to narrow gaps, prepare for meetings in Washington. 11 US view of Jonathan Pollard case is that it is a domestic law enforcement matter.

COLOMBIA 10-11 Extradition with retroactivity should be an essential tool to combat narco-trafficking.

VIETNAM 12 We have made progress on bilateral issues: MIA accounting, emigration; 12 US encouraged further progress on human rights, religious freedom.

MALAYSIA 12 Charges that Anwar's injuries are self-inflicted is ridiculous. 14 ASEAN meeting sites are done on a rotation basis.

NORTH KOREA 13-14 Talks began today. US has serious concerns about their missile development program.


DPB #111

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1998 1:00 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Please put all gambling activities -- must cease; I'm shocked. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me start with a very sad task, and that is to tell you that our Deputy Assistant Secretary, Meg Donovan, passed away early this morning. Meg is someone who is known very well to Secretary Albright and many of us who had the very difficult task of working with Congress in the pursuit of the many nominations and the many pieces of legislation that we need to pursue with Congress.

She oversaw the confirmation of two Secretaries of State in that capacity - Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright - as well as hundreds of other nominees. She devoted her entire career to helping others, and she was the kind of person who not only worked on issues of concern on human rights and other forms of persecution, but was the kind of person that helped people she didn't meet and took care of the people she did know. We will all miss her very much at the State Department. With that personal note, let me turn to your questions.

QUESTION: Jamie, there are credible reports of a severe round-up of Baha'is in Iran. While you're looking for moderation in Tehran - we're told that 32 professors and teachers, who already were barred from teaching in universities and schools, but were teaching their own people, have been rounded up in 14 cities. And you know sometimes that isn't the end of it - they sometimes get killed. And I wonder if you could confirm that and if there's anything the State Department's got to say on this subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. It's not only the round-up, but the imminent prospect of a death sentence that concerns us. We understand that two individuals of the Baha'i faith currently in prison in the Iranian province of Khorasan have had their death sentences confirmed and are in imminent danger of execution for nothing else than the free exercise of their religion.

The two individuals were arrested in October 1997 for violating a ban on religious gatherings. The United States urges the government of Iran to exercise restraint and not to carry out these death sentences.

As you know, in July the United States strongly condemned the Iranian Government's execution of a Baha'i charged with converting a Muslim to the Baha'i faith. As you indicated in your question, we are also aware of other recent official acts of persecution against the Baha'i, including the arrest of 32 faculty members of the university operated by the Baha'i community, as the Islamic republic does not allow Baha'i's to enroll in public universities.

We have urged publicly, and will continue to urge publicly, that the government of Iran protect members of the Baha'i faith and we have also urged the government of Iran to ease restrictions on the practice of religion and to recognize and uphold the fundamental human right to freedom of conscience and belief. We've urged that in the past and we are urging it again today.

QUESTION: What was the location that the - at the top there that you - the two -

MR. RUBIN: Khorasan - K-H-O-R-A-S-A-N.

QUESTION: Jamie, when you're talking about Iran, do you have anything more to say about the Foreign Minister's speech on Monday? And does the United States - in that speech, he seemed to really say we're not ready for dialogue with the United States yet and unless the United States does X,Y and Z. Where do things go from here? Do they just sort of drift --

MR. RUBIN: In order to succeed in diplomacy, one has to be patient, and we intend to be patient. We have made clear that we are willing to talk to the government of Iran to develop a parallel set of steps to allow our concerns to be dealt with and we are ready to engage in such a process.

We would like to go beyond the exchange of rhetoric and address the substance of the relationship, but it's not something we can do alone. I think others have spoken to the different aspects of the speech and I'm not going to go through an elaborate exegesis of it at this time -- simply to say that we are ready to engage but we can't do so alone.

QUESTION: On another subject, this morning the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia held a news conference and he said that his country is adhering to the Dayton Accords and specifically, on the issue of war criminals and cooperation of the signatories. He said that Yugoslavia has a clause in its constitution which bans the extradition of Yugoslav citizens and thus would negate any promises made at Dayton by President Milosevic or his representatives. Was that the US understanding? Is that what the US understands now to be the Yugoslav position, that it cannot extradite indicted war criminals?

MR. RUBIN: I'm unable to respond directly to that particular legal question, other than to say as follows. The Yugoslav authorities have given myriad excuses for their failure to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. They could easily demonstrate cooperation without simply the question of extradition. They could help the War Crimes Tribunal to do its job. That is something that all member states have been urged to do and called on to do pursuant to the Security Council resolutions, and it's my understanding that Serbia has done little, if anything, to follow through with that.

So what we're seeing here is a broad pattern of non-cooperation with the Tribunal's work. Whether there is a legal question that needs to be resolved in order to permit extradition, there are many legal questions in many countries around the world with respect to extradition and when the will is there, they're resolved. We have no doubt that President Milosevic could get a law passed, if he wanted to change things, that would make it possible for extradition to occur.

So what we're seeing here is another excuse by the Serbs for their failure to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal.

QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date on Kosovo since you're talking about Yugoslavia?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me start by saying that the various claims of the Serb authorities at the offenses and the use of brutal force in Kosovo has stopped, are blatantly untrue. The shelling by Yugoslav authorities and police forces continue today in several regions, including artillery firing. We also have reports from our monitors that firing continued in two cities, Stimije and Likovac.

So despite the claims of the Serbian authorities that the Kosovo conflict is now over and that it is calm, it is demonstrably not calm. The international community has set out very clearly what it expects from Slobodan Milosevic. It's contained in various documents including Resolution - I believe it's 1190 -- it doesn't say so on the front - but it's the resolution of the Security Council from 23 September, which made clear that all actions by the security forces affecting the civilian population must cease and the security units used for civilian repression must be withdrawn. Continuous international monitoring must be allowed; that the international relief organizations must be able to operate; and that progress needs to be made towards a peaceful resolution of this issue.

Broadly speaking, those are the four areas that the international community has set down clear conditions on President Milosevic. He is not listening or not hearing or has chosen to flaunt the will of the international community. As a result, I think it's fair to say the prospect of military action is now closer.

NATO has taken a step today to request formally the forces that people have said might be available. This is called an Actreq, which means that the forces that people said might be available are now being formally requested by the Supreme Allied Commander. This follows in direct sequence - the original planning process, the request for countries to decide what they might provide. Now they're being asked to provide specific forces, and the next step - and the final step, if that were taken - would be the release of what we call an Activation Order. That is when the North Atlantic Council approves a political decision to undertake a military operation. After that Activation Order, the execution of the military operation may commence at any time.

So as a result of his failure to comply, I think it's increasingly clear that the international community is running rapidly out of patience with Slobodan Milosevic, his activities and his spokesman's deception about what's going on there.

Furthermore, let me add that I would expect the State Department to issue, in a few short hours, a travel warning indicating that American citizens should not be - warning American citizens not to travel to the region and those in Serbia-Montenegro to consider departing the country -- precisely because of Belgrade's failure to comply with the requirements of the international community and the fact that members of the North Atlantic Council are considering the necessity for military action.

So these are steps that are underway. There are several steps at the UN I can talk about in a moment if you are interested.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: On the travel warning?


MR. RUBIN: Serbia-Montenegro covers all that territory.

QUESTION: Do you have unanimity within NATO now on this; and what about Russia's position - where does that stand?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me first say that the United States is urging the Secretary General to accelerate the report to the Council on compliance, essentially, with the points I mentioned earlier - that is, stopping the repression; stopping the prevention of international humanitarian organizations from operating; and facilitating the monitors from working. That report, we hope, can be sped up so that NATO members will be in a position to discuss the next decision next week.

It is our view that President Milosevic should have absolutely no doubt or misconception as to NATO's capabilities or resolve. We hope that he understands the seriousness of the situation that he has created. If he does not, the direction and momentum of NATO planning should be clear.

With respect to the views of other countries, let me say this -- as I've indicated to some of you on other occasions, there has been a spectrum of opinion about what the necessary prerequisites for military action ought to be, i.e. a Security Council resolution. I think that in light of the recent reports of the atrocities in the region, some of those countries who perhaps wanted to see more and more authority given may be satisfied with less and less.

I can't speak to them specifically, but what I can say is that increasingly, NATO allies are coming to understand the dangers that would be faced if we failed to act or if President Milosevic failed to respond to our demands. That is why the NATO decision-making process is on such a fast track.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify one thing and then ask a question. The warning to the Americans in Serbia-Montenegro - is that being given to protect them from impending bombing or to protect them from a reaction by the local community from the possibility of bombing or actual bombing?

MR. RUBIN: We think the combination of President Milosevic's failure to respond and the possibility of NATO action makes Serbia and Montenegro a more dangerous place for a variety of reasons that I don't care to get into. But we do, when we believe we have reason to think that it becomes more dangerous, it's our responsibility to alert American citizens to that danger. So the danger can be parsed down to different possibilities; but nonetheless, we are saying that Americans shouldn't travel there, and that those in Serbia and Montenegro should consider the fact that we regard it as a more dangerous place in light of the two points that I made. But I can't be more specific than that.

QUESTION: Also, the type of planning that's being discussed publicly here in the last ten days, two weeks is usually the kind of thing that's done in the utmost secrecy - nobody ever talks from podiums about activation orders, et cetera, et cetera. Why is this particular case being done in such a public fashion?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think I quite agree with your characterization of the past. I mean, everything is different; NATO has never put itself together for this kind of military action before in Kosovo - that's never happened before. When it happened in Bosnia, as I think you may recall, there was excruciating detail given on a regular basis for months about the different support that NATO had for action and the UN had for action. So I think what you're comparing this to is a unilateral operation by the United States, which is often done in extreme secrecy, as opposed to a NATO action where 16 countries are involved and obviously that means that it's more difficult and we don't expect to be able to have the same kind of secrecy. So I don't see the analogy the way you do.

QUESTION: What about that resolution in a watershed event -- doesn't it foretell or - at that point foretell - but confirm that you have unanimity except for China, which won't veto anyhow?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I --

QUESTION: Hasn't the ball been moved with that resolution?

MR. RUBIN: We do think the ball was moved by the resolution, because it was taken under Chapter 7 - that is, the enforcement powers of the UN Charter. But again, each of the countries involved is going to have to interpret its own - what significance it applies to that resolution.

We have taken a position of principle that even in the absence of Security Council resolution, NATO would have the authority to act. And as I've said, other countries - depending on who they are - have more or less desire for Security Council authorization.

Certainly, the combination of that resolution and the recent reports of atrocities has made it easier for us to gain support from NATO countries for acting in the absence of a clear and explicit authorization to use force.

QUESTION: The last few days -- of course, the UN was an opportunity and she took it. But in the last few days, has the Secretary talked specifically to allies about this --

MR. RUBIN: I don't have a list of her phone calls, but I can tell you that she's had and will probably continue to have a number of discussions.

In New York, most of her time with her European colleagues was focused on Kosovo. All the nuances that we are now reporting publicly were discussed in some detail privately by the Secretary with her counterparts from France, from Russia, from the United Kingdom and other countries from Europe, including Germany. So these are issues that she has been discussing constantly; that is, how to gather together the greatest possible support by NATO countries for being prepared to act if necessary if Slobodan Milosevic doesn't get the message and fails to comply with the UN's demands.

QUESTION: Through the travel warning you're saying, of course, that any military action would not necessarily be limited to Serbian forces in Kosovo. Often times in this case you'd attack command and control centers anyway; is that what you're trying to say?

MR. RUBIN: Lee, I said nothing of the sort. I said very clearly that we regard the situation as such that American citizens in Serbia-Montenegro and those considering travel there should be aware that it is becoming a more dangerous place, and that they should be advised against travel. That is for the obvious reason that President Milosevic has chosen not to respond to the requirements of the international community, and NATO is considering - as we've indicated on several occasions - the possibility of further action.

So that is the reason why we think it's more dangerous. There are numerous possibilities flowing from that, and I'm not going to get into any specifics.

QUESTION: And secondly, in the consultations with the NATO allies, excluding Russia, is everyone on board for the possibility of military action? Does she feel, do you feel that should you get ready to raise this decision to take this step of military action that everyone in NATO will agree?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to predict the position of the other 15 members. I've tried to give you a flavor of how we sense the momentum has shifted in recent days. Clearly, NATO understands that for the threat of the use of force to be credible, people need to be prepared to act. But as far as what decision each leader will take, as I've indicated to you in the past, that is a political decision and I am not indicating what America's political decision is or what the political decision of the other countries will be. That is above my pay grade.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Djukanovic -- has he asked for any meetings here at the State Department?

MR. RUBIN: Did he say some other ridiculous thing as well?

QUESTION: I'm sorry?

MR. RUBIN: (Laughter.) I'm wondering if he made some other ridiculous claim, but please go ahead.

QUESTION: I don't know. Aside from what he said in his public statement, is he going to meet anybody at the State Department, and if you're not - if he asks and is refused, would the reason be that you didn't want to give him an idea that its negotiable?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not aware of what meetings he's requested. I do believe we have contact with Serbian officials, broadly speaking, both in Belgrade and New York and here in Washington. I'd have to check what his particular request would be and whether we have any planned contact; I just don't know.

QUESTION: He's not coming over here today, for example?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that, no. Certainly not meeting with the Secretary.

QUESTION: You've mentioned several times that President Milosevic has not gotten the message or has not stopped his actions. Should he stop tomorrow or the next day, any time before NATO would make a political decision, would that be sufficient to prevent any military action by NATO? Is that the US' position?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly our goal here is compliance; it's not the use of force. The goal is to get President Milosevic to stop the killing, stop the atrocities, stop the murder of innocent people, to allow international relief organizations to save those who are going to be increasingly in danger in the next two to three weeks, to allow monitors to be in Kosovo to find out what's going on, and to start negotiating seriously.

In our view, that is the goal. What we are looking for is not a temporary tactical once step back two steps forward. We're looking for a strategic decision that is not reversible where he makes the decision to pull back his security forces, to stop them from being used, to repress and brutalize the population of Kosovo, and makes clear that he's made a strategic decision for a serious peace effort. It is not going to be enough for him to simply play cat and mouse with the international community.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to draw the conclusion that if he were to take those steps and if he were to start negotiating, there would be no retribution for actions taken in the past by him and his forces?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that question. What I can say to you is that our demands are clear. His failure to meet those demands is equally clear. If he does not change course, we're heading in a direction that he won't like.

QUESTION: How do you measure the irreversibility of a strategic move by Milosevic? How do you prevent this from becoming a cat and mouse game?

MR. RUBIN: Well first of all, we are fully capable of monitoring the extent to which his security forces move, the extent to which he allows monitors to monitor that, the extent to which international relief organizations are able to operate and get food to the hungry. It's their reports that they are not able to do that, which is part of the reason he's in non-compliance. Certainly, Chris Hill and our negotiators and diplomats are fully able to assess whether he's serious about pursuing a peace accord to provide greater self-government to the people of Kosovo. So these are measurable items.

What I'm saying to you is we haven't seen a shift, and that is where we are today.

QUESTION: I'm trying to pin down the approximate cause for the possibility of NATO strikes. For instance, in taking the heat around here for the past couple of days, including by Ambassador Hill, about the need to round up professional forensic evidence in order to pin down the perpetrators of these atrocities. Is what you are saying that - am I interpreting correctly what you are saying - that the United States would go ahead and recommend NATO air strikes even without comprehensive forensic evidence coming in, pinning down the responsibility for the atrocities?

MR. RUBIN: We have had monitors who visited certain sites. We have had very credible reports of atrocities. These atrocities are not the sole reason why NATO has geared up for contingency planning and move to an Activation Order and now to an Activation Request. This is something that has been going on for months. Some have criticized us for not moving more quickly.

It is our view that in a matter as serious as the use of force, one needs to move carefully; one needs to explore all available diplomatic means of resolving a conflict; one should not rush to use military force. So the fact that this has been going on so long and there's been a steady use of his security forces to crack down on people, and now we have specific atrocity reports, doesn't change the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have been denied access to their homes or driven out or brutalized or scared to death.

So the atrocities, I think, have helped crystallize in the minds of some of those who might have been wavering the urgency of action. But we've been at this from the beginning.

QUESTION: In other words, the reason, when it comes, for NATO air strikes, would be the larger operation - suppression, oppression and general abuse of the Kosovar population.

MR. RUBIN: Again, without going beyond where the decision-making is, let me say very clearly, we have a set of demands. The use of force, if a political decision was made, would be designed to compel compliance with that set of demands and would be designed to ensure that failure to do so would be costly and punishing for Serbian authorities.

What I am saying to you is that we've been at this for some time. We have looked at this as a combination of two interests: number one, our interest in the security and stability of the region and the danger that an outflow of refugees from Kosovo could pose to stability in countries surrounding Kosovo to the future of Bosnia; and secondly, a humanitarian interest in preventing the starvation or death of many, many refugees and internally displaced persons during these winter months. From the beginning, those have been the interests that we have identified. And all I am saying to you, with respect to the atrocities, is that they bring home to those who might have had their doubts the brutality of what President Milosevic and his forces have been doing for some time now.

QUESTION: Another subject -- the Turkish President of - Mr. Suleyman Demirel - at the opening ceremony today in parliament, in his speech he said that, "I declare once more to the world that we reserve the right to retaliate against Syria, which has not abandoned its hostile attitude despite all our warning and peaceful initiative and that our patience is nearing an end." It means that some kind of diplomatic way is urging to Syria for supporting Kurdish terrorist organization --

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that statement. I'll have to get a copy of it and get a response for you.

QUESTION: Also, the Turkish military is starting a build-up in the nearby Syrian border right now.

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check on those reports.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there any chance you have a briefing on this before the trip?

QUESTION: On this same thing?

QUESTION: Yes, this same thing.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: The new Turk Chief of Staff or Armed Forces Chief said essentially the same thing a week ago when he was up there with these - reviewing the 10,000 troops along the Syrian border. My question is would Syria - two questions - is Syria giving safe haven to the PKK leader - (inaudible) - I believe is his name? Secondly, would Turkey be justified in going after him - what they consider terrorists, as they have done in Iraq - an operation you all have said was understandable?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to take those questions.

QUESTION: The trip coming up - I wonder if there could be a briefing on the Middle East? There's something, for instance, I'd like to ask you about that's more like a specialist type of situation.

MR. RUBIN: I can't be assured that we would be able to brief in advance of the trip, but I will inquire. But pose the question.

QUESTION: Well, McCurry, at his regular briefing Tuesday, spoke of Cook having talked to Arafat at some length - more than he did on security -- about establishing - Mike's words included such things as a formal relationship; a bilateral - preparing for a bilateral relationship. This is an idea that was alive a while ago, and I wondered what's the - what kind of - what are you all ginning up there? What are you talking about - a vehicle for economic assistance? Are you preparing for the state that you probably think is inevitable and probably is inevitable? What is this - what are you doing with the Palestinians that resembles dealing with the government or the UN has recognized the Palestinians as all but a government, except for voting rights? I don't know if you saw it in the brief --

MR. RUBIN: The difference in having voting rights and not have voting rights.

QUESTION: Oh sure it is, but they did take a step - a major step -- to increase their status; and apparently the US is planning something similar.

MR. RUBIN: Well I will check with Mike to what he was referring. I know that the President did have a chance to talk at length with the Chairman about several matters. As you know we do deal with the Palestinian Authority in a myriad of ways on security matters, on diplomatic matters, on the peace process, on economic matters. So we have a full service relationship with the Palestinian Authority. Whether there are any steps being considered to change the technicalities of that, I will check for you.

QUESTION: It sounds like it, but, all right, I'll try again tomorrow.

MR. RUBIN: Okay.

QUESTION: One of the things Mike did talk about was his commission. About a year or so ago you all did announce an Albright-Arafat commission or something and when - he talked about rejuvenating a commission and nothing was really ever done with the Albright-Arafat commission. What happened to it --

MR. RUBIN: I'll get you an answer. I mean I know that Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat have had a lot of meetings, primarily in the peace process and perhaps that has made it hard to focus on other subjects. But let me check on the status of that for you.

QUESTION: My question on Colombia. Colombia's constitutional court is about to decide in the next few hours whether to allow retroactive extradition of criminals and drug traffickers to other countries, obviously including the United States. Have you been holding talks with the Colombian Government on this or pressuring them on this?

MR. RUBIN: We don't use the P word, but I can certainly tell you what our view is. Our view is that extradition with retroactivity, meaning that people who have committed crimes in the past should be able to be extradited, is an essential tool to combat transnational crimes such as narco-trafficking, and that is our view and continues to be our view.

QUESTION: Back on the Middle East, I apologize if Mr. Foley may have gone through this yesterday. Could you go over a little bit more about what she plans to do during the trip and where she plans to visit, et cetera?

MR. RUBIN: Well the details of the trip are still being worked out, but what I would expect to see is a series of meetings with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the negotiating teams in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel. The objective of the trip will be to further narrow the gaps and try to develop formulas to overcome some of the differences.

There are a number of areas the Secretary intends to focus on. It is an intensive negotiating session to try to limit the number of issues that need to be addressed when the two leaders come to the United States for a meeting with the President -- a series of meetings, presumably -- to close and hopefully finish all the interim issues that have been unable to be moved forward for 18 months.

QUESTION: Is there a chance that she might detour either en route or afterwards to do the Kosovo issue?

MR. RUBIN: Well, all of those who have traveled with the Secretary know that she's fully capable of changing directions to go onto an urgent task, but I have no information for you on a current plan.

QUESTION: During their meetings, did Netanyahu and the President discuss Jonathan Pollard in this set of meetings and did they - there was an Israeli report that there's a road map for next steps with Jonathan Pollard.

MR. RUBIN: Well, as you know, our position on Jonathan Pollard is a position of principle, and that is that it's a domestic law enforcement matter. That is a decision the President would make in accordance with US law and taking into account the recommendation of the Attorney General and the views of the law enforcement and national security agencies. I understand that Mike is going to check with President Clinton to see whether that issue arose in the one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu that did not arise in the larger meeting. He will be reporting the results of his check.

QUESTION: Is this something the Secretary would make a recommendation on?

MR. RUBIN: I would have to check that. I certainly think the lead is the Attorney General and the views of the law enforcement and national security agencies. To what extent the State Department plays in domestic sentencing of that kind, I would have to check. Yes?

QUESTION: Regarding Cambodia, Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy is scheduled to arrive here in DC tonight sometime, and I was wondering, are there plans for him to meet with anybody here at the State Department in advance of Assistant Secretary Roth's testimony on the Hill tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any such plans.


QUESTION: We had a bit of a readout on the meeting with the Vietnamese yesterday. Do you have anymore today?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I thought you were going to go to another country nearby. You may want to do that afterwards. The basic readout that you got yesterday is what I'm looking at, so I'm not sure I have much to add to you. We have made progress in our relations with Vietnam based on Vietnam's continued cooperation on the POW MIA issue, and that is to achieve the fullest possible accounting. Vietnam has also cooperated in processing refugees and immigrants. That has been the basis for two presidential waivers of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, waivers upheld by a bipartisan majority in Congress.

As you know the Jackson-Vanik waiver made Vietnam eligible for certain trade and investment programs but does not result in MFN -- so-called normal trade relations trading status for Vietnam because that requires a bilateral trade agreement and we've held six rounds of negotiations on that. We have encouraged -- and she did yesterday -- Vietnam to undertake changes in reforms that would improve the business climate and make its economy more attractive to foreign investors. Such reforms would facilitate progress on this trade agreement.

In addition, we welcomed Vietnam's recent decision to release a number of dissidents and religious leaders and we would encourage Vietnam to further improve respect for human rights, including religious freedom.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). I'm just wondering -- given the Prime Minister's comments about a year ago that George Soros and the Jewish community was to blame for the financial crisis in Southeast Asia. Now these nearly unbelievable charges that he's leveled against the Deputy Prime Minister Anwar, whether you have something you could comment on his ability to rule, --

MR. RUBIN: Well certainly in the last case we regarded it as an outrageous statement. We have no reason to believe that these were self- inflicted wounds; it's kind of a ridiculous claim given what's happened to the Deputy Prime Minister and his family and we are working with others to try to bring home to the government of Malaysia that these kind of activities only further cast into doubt the role of Malaysia in the international community.

QUESTION: And, in prosperous times this kind of thing, I suppose, can go away but in fragile times and with unrest in the streets, does this take - have a special sort of - a special sort of difficulty, would you think, in Malaysia?

MR. RUBIN: We'll have to see how things unfold there. All I can say to you is that we have put out statements on this; Secretary Albright has talked to the Secretary General of the UN and other foreign ministers about this, urging everyone to put pressure on the government there to reverse this kind of step.

QUESTION: The Secretary - I assume she's met with the Deputy Prime Minister before - how does she - does she feel anything --

MR. RUBIN: I would have to check that; I don't know about their personal relationship. I'll be happy to check that with them.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on - (inaudible) -- ?

MR. RUBIN: On North Korea. The missile talks did begin this morning. These - the US delegation is led by Bob Einhorn. This is a follow up to talks that were held in April '96 and June '97. As you know, this was one of the things that we urged the North Koreans to move forward on during a set of negotiations in August, and let me be clear - the United States has serious concerns about North Korea's missile exports and their indigenous missile activities, including the attempt in August to use a Taepo Dong-1 missile to orbit a very small satellite. The August 31 launch represents another step forward in North Korea's missile development program and is a matter of deep concern to the United States. That is because a further launch of long-range missiles or transfers of such missiles would pose a threat to our interests; to our allies and could spark an arms race in missiles in the region. We intend to make quite clear to the North Koreans that if they were to proceed with additional launches or were to export such missiles, there will be very negative consequences for our policy.

On the other hand, if North Korea were to adopt strict restraints on its missile program, including the cessation of North Korean flight testing production, deployment and export of missiles and related technology, there could be a commensurate improvement in its relationship with the United States. That is the essence of the message we are going to make clear to them; it's a matter we take very, very seriously and - an unrestrained North Korean missile program would have a very negative consequence on our policy.

QUESTION: Do you know if Einhorn is going to make himself available up there to - (inaudible) -- ?

MR. RUBIN: I'm hoping to arrange something for you tomorrow.

QUESTION: Tomorrow?


QUESTION: Back on Malaysia for a moment --

MR. RUBIN: We're on North Korea and then we'll go back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: In New York.

QUESTION: Can you say anything more about what you mean by the details of what would constitute commensurate improvement or negative consequences?


QUESTION: On Malaysia - do you - if this continues - this situation in Malaysia continues, is it - could the meeting in Kuala Lumpur be endangered?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think that this is one of those cases, and remember how the system works and it's basically an annual rotation and I don't - given the other countries involved, I would be surprised if there is a willingness on their part to consider a change of venue.

QUESTION: What about participation of the United States - would that be affected?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that at this time.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you to try to elaborate a little on your comments earlier on Kosovo --

MR. RUBIN: I thought they were pretty elaborate.

QUESTION: Well, just a little bit more. But specifically your comment about their - your having credible reports of atrocities for some time - I don't --

MR. RUBIN: That's not what I said.

QUESTION: Well, OK then, I misunderstood it, but I'm trying to understand how this particular incident represents an increase in our knowledge of exactly what allegedly is going on and going on there?

MR. RUBIN: For some time we have been deeply concerned and condemned Serbia's use of military power against civilians in a wide-scale repression in Kosovo. We have talked about it from the podium of myriad occasions; we have ratcheted up the sanctions regime; we launched a series of military planning activities, including exercises, precisely because we have had concerns about the humanitarian consequences of what Serbian military and police authorities are doing in Kosovo. What I said, with respect to the atrocities, was that for those who had their doubts about the need to reach to the question of military force, perhaps that has made it easier for them to do so. We have always said that we thought NATO could act without a UN Security Council resolution and I think the combination of an initial Security Council action some days ago and the credible reports of atrocities in recent days has made some, who were perhaps less clear on the importance of threatening the use of force, to come closer to our position.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

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